The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country of East Africa. Its immediate neighbours include South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (clockwise from North). To the South is Lake Victoria, upon which the Capital city Kampala is situated. The country’s close proximity to the equator brings it a varied but generally tropical climate, favourable for agriculture as it also lies within the fertile Nile Basin.
The nation was united by British colonial rule in the late nineteenth century. This grouped together a wide range of cultural groups with very different customs and traditions which form the basis of many ethnic minorities that still remain today. English is the official language and Christianity is the major religion (approx. 85%).
With a total fertility rate of 5.97 children born per woman (2014 est.), Uganda’s population growth rate is 3.2% per year, one of the highest in the world. The population age structure is highly skewed toward the children and youth as the median age is just 15 years. Low life expectancy is attributable to Uganda’s history of conflict, not only directly causing death but also stunting developmental capacity and holding Ugandans in perpetual poverty. According to the UN Human Development Index, the country is ranked 161 out of 187.
Having gained independence from Britain in 1962, competition for power and national leadership has been fraught with violence and bloodshed. Most recently, a lengthy civil war saw the death of tens of thousands and displacement of approximately 1.4 million.
Today the government is run under a multiparty system with President Yoweri Museveni in leadership. Elections are held every five years and there is no limit to presidency terms.
The Ugandan economy has experienced stable and sustained growth over the past two decades. Much of this is due to expanding industry and service sectors, as well as strong foreign direct investment and export growth. In saying this, agriculture still comprises an 80% majority of the labour force with major produce being coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, cassava, corn, milk, beef and poultry. Manufacturing takes place in industries of cotton textiles, sugar refinery, brewing, cement and steel production.
The greatest concerns to Ugandan economic growth are corruption, high energy costs, inadequate transport infrastructure, and unreliable power supply which inhibit productivity and investor confidence. Furthermore, instability in South Sudan poses a threat not only because Uganda prone to being overwhelmed by Sudanese refugees, but also because they are Uganda’s primary recipient of exports.
- Education: Low funding, teacher absenteeism, poorly enforced curriculum, lack of textbooks and large classes are inhibiting the potential of Uganda’s children. Poor national educational outcomes and low retention rates result, limiting vocational opportunities to a narrow productive base beyond agriculture, with little available capital to scale up small enterprises.
- Child labour: A cyclical lack of capital has fueled the exploitation of children in subsistence agriculture or domestic work. Instead of going to school it is commonplace for children to work on plantations, factories and in homes if not to support their own families, then for employers or traffickers. As one in five working children had no formal education, they are highly vulnerable to exploitation and poor conditions of work.
- Child sacrifice: The deeply disturbing custom of child sacrifice is becoming an increasing problem in Uganda. Traditional witchdoctors and healers demand the lives, organs or body parts of hundreds of children every year for the purposes of ceremonial rituals and spiritual intercession. The victims are kidnapped and attacked until they die of blood loss or are kept alive for continued acts of brutality.
- Water and sanitation: Only 34% of Ugandans have access to improved sanitation facilities. Public running water infrastructure is scarce so scooping water from natural springs is the norm for many rural dwellers. When having to make this trip multiple times each day, productivity is compromised and the communal nature of water sources make them prone to pollution and outbreaks of disease.
- Refugees: Since conflict sparked a humanitarian emergency in South Sudan in 2013, an estimated 165 000 refugees have crossed the border into Ugandan territory (UNHCR February 2015 estimates). The government’s generous asylum policies have led to the establishment of new refugee centres and the mass voluntary repatriation of long-standing refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to accept new refugees on a prima facie basis. However, as population density continues to rise with the influx, the challenge of land scarcity is becoming increasingly difficult. The UNHCR’s focus is on how to optimise social and economic opportunities from smaller plots of land to maintain healthy livelihoods.
CIA WorldFact Book - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ug.html
United Nation Development Programme - http://www.ug.undp.org/content/uganda/en/home/countryinfo/
Wage Indicator Foundation = http://www.mywage.org/uganda/home/labour-laws/fair-treatment/child-labour
Kyampisi Childcare Ministries - http://kyampisi.org/?page_id=133
UNHCR - http://data.unhcr.org/SouthSudan/country.php?id=229